Ryan Pivirotto has regained his edge

Oct. 11, 2019, 2:48 p.m. (ET)


One year ago, Ryan Pivirotto couldn’t imagine a future where he had a successful speed skating career. Although he was on the 2018 Olympic Short Track Team, his experience at the Games had left him questioning himself and doubting his talent.

That all changed in early October during the short track world cup qualifier at the Utah Olympic Oval when Ryan won the 1000m and 1500m, and earned the top spot in the overall classification. He shared his feelings about the event in an emotional social media post.

“Last year was the worst me anyone could have seen. My mindset wasn't good and it took me months to accept where I was in order for me to start growing and getting stronger again. I'm thankful for my amazing team and coaches to help me through that point and to help me get to a place where I am stronger than I have ever been in my career.”

Ryan started playing hockey as a child in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. When his family moved to Connecticut when he was 11 he continued playing for several more years, but when he turned 15 he decided he needed a change - but wanted to stay with an ice sport. His mom said his options were figure skating or speed skating. It wasn’t a difficult choice.

His first pair of speed skates were his coach’s used Marchese’s, and Ryan’s skated with Marchese boots ever since. He says speedskating felt “effortless” and by the end of his first year, Ryan began rising through the national rankings. In 2014, he skated with the junior world team and in 2015, he made his first world cup team.

But Ryan never felt like he fit in with his national teammates. He made the decision to train in Korea where he could focus on technique and strength as he prepared for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials.

“I didn’t like training with the national team at the time. The program wasn’t working for me, so I trained in Korea for two years. It was very different from what I was used to. We don’t have many high-level skaters here, but in Korea they were a dime a dozen.”

At the end of the Trials, Ryan had secured his spot on the team, but it had been a rough weekend. It didn’t get any easier as he went to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. After all the work he’d done preparing for the men’s relay, he wasn’t selected to compete. He described his experience at the Games as “bittersweet” as he watched from the sidelines as his teammates competed.

After the Games, Ryan experienced a deep depression which caused him to question his skills and his talent. He was selected for the 2018-19 National Team but he didn’t want to skate at all when the season started. It wasn’t until the U.S. Short Track Championships in January 2019 that he began to feel he was skating the way he wanted.

He credits National Short Track Head Coach Wilma Boomstra with helping him change his perspective, which allowed him to put his Games experience behind him and look toward Beijing 2022.

“I started making myself responsible and accountable for myself and my training,” Ryan says. “I knew when I changed it had to be for me. So, I started with a fresh mindset for this season. It’s been a diligent and deliberate way to train. After everything I went through, I was able to bring it back to the way I knew I could skate.”

After his previous experiences with national and Olympic teams, Ryan says it feels great to be part of the team he’s on now. “It’s the first time I’ve been on a team where there’s no selfishness.”

“I am very proud of Ryan and very happy for him,” Coach Boomstra says. “After the last 2018-19 American Cup, I told him what my expectations are from him and that I need him to step up as a leader, that there are no shortcuts this season if we want to get to the top.

“From day one, Ryan came in with a different, better attitude and work ethic and it is paying off for him. He puts in the work without complaining, he listens well, he is humble and he is always willing to help others.”

Ryan considers himself a role model for other skaters who struggle to find their place in the sport. Developing a positive mindset and pushing himself past the point of comfort at every practice has changed his outlook.

“It’s not going to feel good at every practice. Maybe it feels good just a handful of times each season, but if you can skate through the pain and exhaustion, it’s worth it.”